Dan Feldman

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 13:  Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors  shoots in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest during NBA All-Star Weekend 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 13, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Report: Klay Thompson to defend three-point contest title

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Zach LaVineAaron Gordon II? We won’t get that in the dunk contest.

But Stephen CurryKlay Thompson III? We might get that in the three-point contest.

Curry topped Thompson in the final round two years ago, and Thompson flipped the script last year. The Warriors’ Splash Brothers are halfway to another rematch.

 

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson will defend his championship and compete in the NBA 3-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans on Feb. 18, league sources informed ESPN.

His backcourt teammate and 2015 long distance champ Stephen Curry received an invite from the league, but sources tell ESPN the two-time MVP is still mulling it over.

The Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum and Mavericks’ Wesley Matthews will also reportedly participate in the event.

 

Thompson could be the first player to win consecutive three-point contests since Jason Kapono in 2007 and 2008.

But, if he competes, Curry will be favored to win the event. He’s the best 3-point shooter ever, and he’s heating up at just the right time.

 

Magic Johnson returns to Lakers as adviser to Jeanie Buss

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The last time Magic Johnson worked for the Lakers, he publicly suggested they pursue LeBron James, Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan. Those cutting-edge ideas led to no signings, but Johnson’s tweets got the Lakers fined.

Johnson relinquished his honorary title of vice president, but the greatest player in franchise history is returning to the organization.

Lakers release:

The Los Angeles Lakers today announced that Earvin “Magic” Johnson will return to the Lakers to assist Jeanie Buss in all areas of basketball and business as an advisor.

“We are thrilled and honored to add Magic’s expertise and abilities, and I look forward to working alongside him.” said Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss.

“Magic Johnson is one of the NBA’s greatest players and it is terrific to see him returning to the Lakers,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “He is a truly special person and a natural leader with a relentless passion for basketball and profound knowledge of the game.”

“Everyone knows my love for the Lakers. Over the years, I have considered other management opportunities, however my devotion to the game and Los Angeles make the Lakers my first and only choice. I will do everything in my power to help return the Lakers to their rightful place among the elite teams of the NBA,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s duties will include, but not be limited to, advising ownership on all business and basketball matters, collaborating with coaches, evaluating and mentoring players, assessing future franchise needs, and helping ownership to determine the best path for growth and success. Johnson will spend time at Lakers offices in El Segundo and will report directly to Jeanie Buss.

Johnson is a longtime adversary of Jim Buss, whose timeline for resigning as executive vice president of basketball operations if the Lakers aren’t contending has been a source of intrigue for years. Jim has tried shift the narrative this year, as the 17-34 Lakers appear headed for another lottery trip.

Johnson was a great player and is an accomplished businessman. He’s far less experienced in basketball operations, and the Lakers shouldn’t lean heavily on him there (though who knows what they’ll do?).

But, most importantly, this signals change in management — and other shoes could drop.

Bucks trade Miles Plumlee to Hornets for Roy Hibbert, Spencer Hawes

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 07: Miles Plumlee #18 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots against the Chicago Bulls
at the United Center on March 7, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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The Hornets have been lost with Cody Zeller injured.

They’re 22-16 with him and 1-10 without him — including four straight losses. Charlotte has played like a 62-win team with him on the court and a 29-win team when he sits, easily the biggest disparity among the team’s rotation regulars.

And that’s not just because Zeller plays so much with the Hornets’ other starters. Those units perform worse with Roy Hibbert, Spencer Hawes or Frank Kaminsky replacing Zeller.

So, Charlotte, apparently getting antsy, has traded for the Bucks’ Miles Plumlee.

Marc Stein of ESPN broke the story, which the teams have now confirmed as a consummated deal:

Plumlee is having a down year in nearly every respect in the first season of a four-year, $50 million contract. So, the Bucks do well by unloading him for Hibbert (on an expiring contract) and Hawes ($6,021,175 player option for next season).

At least Plumlee will somewhat approximate Zeller’s interior bounciness that works so well in Charlotte. That’s important for the Hornets (23-27, eighth in the East) as they jockey for playoff position.

The Bucks (21-27, 10th in the East), also in the thick of the postseason race, don’t lose much. Milwaukee is more than fine with John Henson and Greg Monroe, who’s having a resurgent season, at center. Hibbert and Hawes add depth, though it’s unclear how the rigid Hibbert fits into the Bucks’ aggressive defense. Hawes isn’t great shakes, either, but his size allows him to play as a stretch big in certain matchups Mirza Teletovic and Jabari Parker can’t handle.

Rumor: Jimmy Butler, other Bulls concerned by coaches ‘spying’ for front office

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Bulls general manager Gar Forman admonished Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo for speaking publicly about the team’s problems. Butler said he regretted nothing.

Was that a simple disagreement or the latest in a fractured relationship between Butler and the Bulls, particularly Forman?

The latter has become the popular theory, with rumor following rumor.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Butler and other Bulls have had issues with the “spying’’ that goes on in the locker room. He warned new players that if they didn’t want Forman to hear criticism, they shouldn’t talk in front of certain assistant coaches such as Randy Brown.

The belief is that the Bulls love to gather as much ammunition as they can on players, so they can win the news conference when the breakup comes, whether it’s a trade or free agency.

“They did it with [Luol Deng], and they did it with [Joakim Noah] and Derrick [Rose],’’ a source said. “That’s how they operate.’’

Another spin: The coaches collaborate with the front office to build the best team possible by sharing what they’ve observed. More information should only help Forman. Unless he specifically asks to speak to a coach in confidence — and Cowley provides no evidence that’s the case here — why would a player expect coaches to hide his words from management?

Many of the NBA’s best-run organizations feature strong connections between the front office and the bench. A communication breakdown between departments was cited as a key reason for firing Tom Thibodeau.

I’m also not sure whether they won the press conference after seeing Deng, Rose and Noah depart, but the Bulls won each transaction:

  • Chicago traded Deng, whose best years were behind him and was heading into free agency, to the Cavaliers for a potentially valuable first-round pick. The protected Kings pick has yet to convey, and if not sent this year — it’s top-10 protected — it converts to a second-rounder. But betting on Sacramento having one decent year in three was a savvy gamble considering the upside.
  • Rose hasn’t been worth the trouble this season. Jettisoning him has given Butler room to spread his wings. And Robin Lopez, acquired in the trade with the Knicks, has provided steady production at center.
  • The Bulls watched Noah sign a four-year, $72.59 million deal with New York — arguably the worst contract in the NBA. Noah turns 32 in a few weeks, and the next three years won’t be pretty.

But if Butler and current Bulls believe the front office is “spying” through coaches, that’s a problem in itself. Hiring Hoiberg, with deep ties to Forman, probably fueled that perception. And Butler and Hoiberg have had differences.

This distrust is not healthy, whether or not it’s grounded in reality. It’s on Forman to set a culture that quashes it.

Still, most importantly: Butler is playing great. He’s locked up for two more years, and the new veteran-designated-player rule will give Chicago a huge advantage in re-signing Butler.

Whatever problems exist, Butler and the Bulls are working through them. But if those underlying issues fester, there’s always a risk things go south.

Report: Kings owner Vivek Ranadive aspired to assemble big three of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Russell Westbrook

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 25: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looses the ball while guarded by DeMarcus Cousins #15 and Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on January 25, 2013 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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What is it about lousy California NBA owners dreaming too big?

The Kings have a superstar talent in DeMarcus Cousins. Before he tore his AchillesRudy Gay provided Sacramento with decent production and blunt assessments of the franchise. And then, if you asked Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, Russell Westbrook somehow enters the picture.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

One league insider says Ranadive told him some months back that he aspires to assemble a big three in Sacramento, with Russell Westbrook joining Cousins and Rudy Gay.

There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to add Westbrook. Every team in the NBA would love to have the MVP candidate.

But it’s important for teams to realize their place when building. Aiming too high can result in falling completely flat.

To be fair, it’s unclear how realistic Ranadive believed acquiring Westbrook to be. This could’ve just been a hope rather than a implemented plan.

It’s also unclear whether this was before or after Westbrook signed a contract extension with the Thunder.

If before, Westbrook trade rumors were swirling in the wake of Kevin Durant leaving for the Warriors. Still, the Kings lacked assets beyond Cousins and Gay to send Oklahoma City in a potential trade. Sacramento was short on valuable players, and it could trade just 2-3 future first-round picks. Even if those picks somehow formed the best offer and the Thunder – confident that the Kings would pick high in 2021 and 2023 – accepted, would Westbrook really re-sign in Sacramento a year later? Relinquishing all its expendable assets to trade for Westbrook would have probably been for Sacramento than not not getting him at all.

If after Westbrook’s extension, a trade went even further out the window. Westbrook is now set to become a free agent in 2018, but the idea of him leaving Oklahoma City to sign with the Kings might be the most far-fetched of any possible scenario.

Overall, I’m not sure what’s funnier – Ranadive believing the Kings could get Westbrook or believing Gay is good enough to comprise a third of a big three.